It wasn’t a World Series victory, but for two Brooklyn high-schoolers it almost felt like it.
Bushwickian Ashley Alba and East New Yorker Caric Appleton graduated from the Turn 2 Foundation’s Jeter’s Leaders program on June 29, wrapping up four years of work with the organization.
It was an emotional moment for the pair who spent their time in high school working with the leadership development program. Jeter’s Leaders is the signature program of the Turn 2 Foundation, founded by former Yankees star Derek Jeter 1996 to motivate young people to turn away from drugs and alcohol.
The experience influenced Alba both in and out of the classroom, she said.
“The program was more like a family setting, so we really helped each other out, and we helped other people too,” Alba said. “When we had community service projects, we did all kinds of things — planting and painting and building schools. I think that was a very memorable experience.”
Alba, who lives in Bushwick but attended high school in Manhattan, first heard about Jeter’s Leaders when she was in middle school and immediately decided the organization was a perfect fit.
Over the last four years, Alba worked on projects across the city, focusing on community outreach programs. Her hard worked paid off, and the foundation named her “most valuable player” at the graduation ceremony.
Alba will attend Siena College in Loudonville this fall on a full scholarship through Jeter’s Leaders. She plans to study both chemistry and Spanish, and she’s already counting down the days until she heads upstate.
“It’s very exciting,” Alba said. “Although it was also kind of sad to leave the program, because I’m leaving somewhere I was comfortable and I felt like I belonged.”
Alba isn’t a Jeter’s Leader anymore, but she’s confident that both she and Appleton will continue to use the lessons they learned with the organization. The two spent the better part of their high-school careers helping their respective communities, and Alba can’t imagine that will change once she’s started college.
“Community service has been something that I’ve been doing since eighth grade,” she said. “So I can’t leave that behind. It’s kind of become like a sixth sense and I definitely plan on continuing that.”
Alba and Appleton’s time with the Turn 2 Foundation is over, but the next lineup of leaders is already set, and this year’s group also has a distinctive Brooklyn flair.
Paige Thompson (Urban Assembly School for Law & Justice), Hasnat Nuri (High School for Health Professions and Human Services), Jamal McIntosh (The Academy of Urban Planning) and Ky’ir Durant (Eagle Academy for Young Men II) were among 10 incoming freshman inducted in the Jeter’s Leaders program, a jumping off point for an undeniably bright future.
Since its inception, every Jeter’s Leaders participant has gone on to attend college and while the program may be a bit intimidating at first, Alba offered some words of advice for the latest inductees.
“Try your best to step out of your shell even when you don’t feel comfortable speaking,” she said. “When you’re shy or timid or nervous, it’s better to try and speak out so that you fit in and they’ll start to all feel like family.”
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